Skip to main content

Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

See other formats


education as at once the most typical form of progressive Greek
education and that about which the most direct and complete
information is available.

(The beginnings of Athenian education are obscure. Tra-
dition, probably with considerable truth, ascribed to Soltfn
(circa 640-559 B.C.) the earliest legislation on the subject. He
is credited with an enactment that every boy should be taught to
swim and to read, and also with a number of regulations, which
were to be enforced by special magistrates, concerning the
manner in which the existing schools and palestras should be
conducted. The general character of these regulations — which
must have been almost contemporaneous with the institution of
the Spartan system— shows that the difference between Athens
and Sparta in educational matters went far back. Unlike the
Spartan law-giver, Solon did not interfere in any way with the
subjects or methods in vogue in the schools, but confined his
laws to such points as the age and rank of the pupils, the character
of the pupils* attendants (the pedagogues), the hours at which
the schools should open and close, the exclusion of adults from
their precincts, etc., all more or less in the interests of morality*
These regulations, it will be seen, presuppose the existence
of the school, an institution unknown ia the Homeric age or
among the Spartans. Whether the Athenian school was suggested
by some Oriental predecessor (the Babylonian school, perhaps),
or was an indigenous product of Greek life, cannot be determined.
The latter view is not improbable. When the Greek States
came out of the dark ages into the light of history in the Eighth
Century B.C. they were in possession of a phonetic alphabet
based on that of ,the Phoenicians and of a national book, the
Homeric epics. fThey had thus passed definitely beyond the
stage at which it was sufficient to be " doers of deeds and speakers
of words " : literature was already an essential factor in their
lives.! That necessarily involved the learning of letters, and sooner
or later the establishment of schools. Taking everything into
account, then, we may reasonably conclude, even in the absence
of direct evidence, that there were schools in Athens early in the
Seventh Century, and that like the later Athenian schools they
were the outcome of private enterprise and not a creation of the

Within historic times Athenian education passed through